Editor's note: If you missed the first two articles in the series, check them out here: "The evolution of programmatic" and "Preferred programmatic: Widening our view of 'premium.'"
We've talked about "the evolution of programmatic" as well as "preferred programmatic." So now it's time to dive deep and understand fully how to implement a full programmatic strategy within your organization. It might seem obvious, but it's not.
As often happens when any technology starts to get industry buzz, we end up with a wide range of not-so-differentiated offerings. It can be mind-boggling (not to mention time consuming) to discern providers offering true value from those that are just throwing around buzzwords. Today, the programmatic landscape is growing at a monstrous rate, so naturally we are seeing this "me too" phenomenon take hold. Thus, now more than ever is the time to make sure your understanding of programmatic is grounded in some basics.
To start, you must understand the difference between auction-based media buying and the bigger story of programmatic, which is actually more complex and can have far more impact on your efficiency and results than the more simple and narrow idea of RTB. A 2013 study from the Winterberry Group and the IAB showed that 66 percent of respondents associated programmatic with auction-based buying, so we know a lack of understanding of the nuances of programmatic has been a stumbling block hindering wider adoption.
To reiterate: Programmatic goes beyond automation tools and real-time auctions. It is actually the full spectrum of mechanical change by which the ecosystem communicates -- a shift away from the paperwork and toward efficiency. We define it as a comprehensive, holistic approach by which media buyers and sellers may more clearly align organizational workflow with automation technology, allowing us all to operate at a greater rate of speed to deliver the brand message to the appropriate individual. This new way of working should be straightforward and transparent.
Once you establish who (and what) is real, do your due diligence! Ask your potential partners about the audience segments, inventory, and transparency they can offer via their platforms. Dig into the depth and breadth of their data sources and auditing controls. Not all systems are the same and neither is the support and customer service aspects. Ultimately all of this will determine the relevance and success in delivering the right message to the right person at the most opportune time.
Obviously, inventory quality controls are extremely important, so look closely at what your partner can truly provide. There are many "automation for automation's sake" auction-based and automated buying systems with poor inventory. But as we have established, not only is premium inventory accessible via programmatic, but it can also be much more cost effective to buy this premium inventory through programmatic platforms.
Once you've determined the partner most suited to deliver against your KPIs and budget requirements, execution is king. Seamless implementation is a matter of building or adapting your organization's infrastructure to work with automation. If the vendor's solutions are too complex to implement, pick another provider. There should be no real heavy lifting falling to your operations department simply to get things going the "right" way. A shift toward programmatic should free up time, which will benefit many departments, from marketing to sales to CRM. To maximize these benefits, it's important to ensure each department is working together to support a cohesive, timely campaign.
For instance, as we've noted earlier in this series, arming your creative department with a "programmatic creative" solution can ensure that you retain creative control of your ads, tailor them to each audience segment, and enable your creative team to keep up with the pace of programmatic buying and delivery platforms. Freeing departments from working in silos will help facilitate the implementation of your programmatic solution, and you will see the longer-term benefits of that collaboration across your organization's initiatives.
Ultimately, automation does not mean that you simply implement programmatic and then "set it and forget it." It is important for marketers to think and function independently, and to be smart about choosing data partners and programmatic platforms that suit their unique needs. You don't need to work with several different providers; selecting a few quality partners will allow you to streamline your processes, improve targeting and efficiency, and help you boost results and meet your overall business goals.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series on programmatic media buying.
Jonathan Slavin is CRO of CPXi, the sponsor of this article.